Sound Fix Feels the Noise from City Agencies

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In the four years Sound Fix has been in business, it’s become one of the city’s best-loved independent music stores and a Brooklyn alternative to Other Music. About a year ago the store took over the cafe in the rear of its building on North 11th and Bedford and began using the space as a bar and performance space. The Sound Fix Lounge has hosted acts like the Mountain Goats, Beirut, Kimya Dawson, and Camera Obscura. But the venue has been silent for three weeks now and may be imperiled, says owner James Bradley, because city agencies have been serving violation upon violation on the performance space and have also started targeting the record store itself. According to Bradley, the Dept. of Health, the Dept. of Buildings, and the Police Dept. have all issued violations on the business, many of them requiring court appearances. “It’s been really overwhelming,” says Bradley. The record store owner believes the violations are rooted in complaints from a couple of neighbors who live in an adjacent building, one of whom, Teresa Polonski, works for Assemblyman Joseph Lentol. “I’m sympathetic to noise complaints, and we’ve done a lot to try to mitigate the noise,” says Bradley. “All this seems to be really excessive to me.” The Dept. of Health shut down the Sound Fix Lounge after serving it with three violations for operating without a food license; the first violation was issued March 6th, the second on March 8th, and the third on March 28th. “On 3/28 the establishment was swarmed by inspectors and shut down. I was advised by DOH that this was actually a Mayor’s task force,” says Mikelle V. Komor of Wagner Davis P.C., one of the attorneys working for Sound Fix. “When we appeared for the hearing on the first two violations on 4/1, the hearing officer at the Administrative Tribunal called the issuance of the two violations in two days inequitable and unconscionable.” Although Bradley tried to renew the license, the DOH has’t let him because it has records of unpaid fines from the space’s previous owners. Bradley says the establishment’s liquor license has been in limbo for nine months, and “one official said the agency was under pressure ‘from Albany’ to put us through the ringer.” Assemblyman Lentol says he “vaguely remembers” Polonski complaining about Sound Fix but “I refute that I have put any pressure on the city to close the place down.” Lentol says “everything’s that’s happened has come out of the community board.”

soundfix-vert-04-2008.jpgMeanwhile, about a week ago, the DOB affixed a note to Sound Fix’s door saying the record store and lounge were both in violation of zoning laws. Although both businesses are in an area zoned for residential use, the space has an active Certificate of No Objection that allows Bradley to operate them. A call to the DOB for clarification was not returned. Police officers have served about five summonses on the lounge in the past few months “for very flimsy things,” says Bradley. “The officers are always very nice, and one of them said to me, ‘Our captain has a hard-on for you guys.’” Attorney Steven R. Wagner, who is also representing Bradley, says what’s happening to the business “seems like a campaign of harassment. We will defend Sound Fix so that this well-known store and indie venue stay open.” As the Times reported today, Sound Fix’s problems are not 100% unique; record stores all over the city are having a tough time making a go of it nowadays. Outstanding issues with the DOH notwithstanding, Regina Spektor is scheduled to perform at the lounge tomorrow afternoon in celebration of Record Store Day. GMAP
Top photo by pauldini; other by Leia Jospe.

0 Comment

  • Get rid of the music and the transformation of NYC into Ohio is complete.

  • Turn it into an Oyster Bar

  • Thanks for the update on this, I was just wondering what was going on at SoundFix now that the weather was warming up.

    This is dissapointing. How can residents get involved to help these guys out?

  • It’s a tragedy how the city of New York is assualting and destroying the very arts and music that made this city great.

  • The “cafe” has been a noise problem for well more than a year. Unfortunately, when complaints were made to the owners, nothing was done. Too bad, but this looks like Triple Crown all over again (remember them – across the street?).

  • “The Dept. of Health shut down the Sound Fix Lounge after serving it with three violations for operating without a food license; the first violation was issued March 6th, the second on March 8th, and the third on March 28th.”

    Sounds like the problems extend beyond the musical realm.

  • Why is “cafe” in quotes, 10:33? Are you one of the whiny neighbors who should move back to Kansas where you belong?

    NYC is totally losing its soul. Maybe it’s time to find a city that doesn’t punish local artists and musicians for daring to put on performances in record stores. I am so tired of this abusive sh*t. Remember what almost happened to the Red Hook vendors?

  • “The Dept. of Health shut down the Sound Fix Lounge after serving it with three violations for operating without a food license; the first violation was issued March 6th, the second on March 8th, and the third on March 28th.”

    Sounds like the problems extend beyond the musical realm.

  • 11:04 (a): “Cafe” is in quotes because the place operates more as a bar or club, particularly at night and on some weekend days. I’m not one of the whiny neighbors, and would just as soon see this place (particularly the record store) succeed. But I do know that there have been complaints from neighbors about the noise from a live music venue in a very residential area, and that those complaints go back at least a couple of years now. All I was saying was that the owners could have done something to be a bit more cooperative before the crackdown.

    11:04 (b): when the city (or precinct) finally decides to crack down on an establishment, they flood the zone, as it were. They bring in multiple agencies (DOH, DOB, FDNY, et al) and issue multiple violations, all in an effort to close down the “nuisance”.

    signed, 10:33

  • I know how Sound Fix operates, 10:33. I go there all the time. And I know what happens when some petty bureaucrat gets a a stick up their ass about a local business and decides to take it down. It isn’t right and it shouldn’t be tolerated, but this is New York City 2008, land of condos and wine bars.

    I’m sure Sound Fix will do what they can to stay open, but someone’s obviously eyeing that piece of real estate as a great place for an American Apparel or Urban Outfitters location.

    New York is dying.

  • I found the comment one of the city agents made interesting, “The Captain has a hard on for you guys.”

    That sounds like harrassment, especially because one of the complaining residents has a special “in” and greater access to the city agencies because she works for a city assemblyman.

    This record store needs to comply with the noise code and with laws for serving food, etc. but if they are getting picked on far beyond what other businesses would experience in the same situation but not with an assemblyman’s staffperson living nearby, that’s something else and it’s really disturbing. That kind of privilege to be able to personally shut a business down is wrong.

    Like come on, has anyone seen how filthy most cafes are in NYC? As if the city gives a crap about improper food service. I’ve seen the worst things at places like filthy Ozzies coffeeshop on 5th Ave in Park Slope just to name one place, like nasty dirt and dust crusted on the floors and on the thing that holds the cookie trays with cookies sitting out uncovered right on it, and nobody is shutting them down.

  • there is no doubt in my mind that this wreaks of a assemblyman helping out one of his staffers.

    first off the same block shut down a bar on the other corner the triple crown. can anybody name any other bar of the scores of them in williamsburg that have been shut down other then these two? coincidence, i doubt it.

    as for the nothing was done comment to fix complaints i know personally that sound fix soundproofed the walls at great expense but thats not good enough when aomeone else has an in.

    having an in gives you great access, lets judt say when i complained about garbage not picked up all over shore road in bay ridge where i live within 1 hour of complaining to city councilman Gentile it was cleaned up.

    after another brawl happened in park slope after school ended i called Diblasis office and they told me they would call the captain directly for more police presence the next day.

    and for 11:50 comment of dirty coffee houses, there was a chair that was outside the tea lounge the other day on 10th street i wouldn’t even let my dog take a shit on. really.

  • Just seems that the city has more pressing issues to deal with in WBurg/GP than to shut down a music store that so many people love.

    I’d prefer we flood the zone with DOB inspectors on new construction and late night NYPD.

  • So then you know that its not just a “cafe”.

    The people doing most of the complaining are not the condo and wine bar types, they’re the people who have lived there forever. Remember, there were people living here before you decided to make the neighborhood hip.

    The fact that the precinct is making it an issue means that someone has made it an issue for them – either too many 311 complaints, actual criminal activity (which I’m not alleging in this case), or political pressure. It also means that the owners of SF had plenty of warning and plenty of opportunity to address the problems before it reached this level of escalation.

    I’m not saying its right or wrong, just saying what it is.

  • 12:12, did you even read the article?

    “When we appeared for the hearing on the first two violations on 4/1, the hearing officer at the Administrative Tribunal called the issuance of the two violations in two days inequitable and unconscionable.”

    Sure, someone made it an issue for the precinct: some bureaucrat’s staffer who probably bought an apartment or condo nearby without bothering to check out the neighborhood first. These are the same types of people who move into an apartment above a busy bar and then call in noise complaints night after night. They are sucking the life out of this city.

  • I have news for all these NEW New Yorkers who seem to all of a sudden have a quality of life complaint with NOISE: EVERY NEIGHBORHOOD IS RESIDENTIAL IN NEW YORK CITY! There are people living on top of people. Quit whining or move to the country, seriously. I’ve lived here for 20 years, some neighborhoods more noisy than others, but you move around, you find a place… you don’t complaint about these wonderful contributions to culture. Or wait, you do. What’s more dangerous, triplewide babystrollers running pedestrians into traffic and off the sidewalks, or the low hum of a bass creeping through the walls? My god.

  • I’m a “new” New Yorker, 12:17 (only been here two years) and I feel the same way. Not all transplants are like that!

  • “there were people living here before you decided to make the neighborhood hip.”

    Yeah, but it’s those who made the neighborhood hip who have made the streets safe at night. And who have made the property values rise for longtime property owners so they have a significant inheritance to pass on to their kids, or they can sell and retire on the proceeds.

    You really want to go back to the way Williamsburg was before? Okay. Well you drive away enough of the cool amenities and then everyone leaves, and then you get your total shithole neighborhood returned to you.

    Please. NONE of you are complaining about a safer neighborhood and NONE of those who have owned buildings there a long time are complaining about how valuable they are now. NONE.

  • Its a little bit different when the noise moves under you. People there moved around, found a place (or more likely, were born in a place), and lived there for 20, 30, 40 or more years. Then someone came along and decided that they needed a little more culture and put on live music shows right next door.

    And if you know the neighborhood, you know that most of the buildings are wood frame, so its not “the low hum of a bass creeping through the walls”, its a band playing in your bed room.

  • I think you have it backwards, 12:20 – the neighborhood was safe, which made it attractive to newcomers like you and the owner of Sound Fix. Having lived through the shit for so many years, the long-time residents had about five years in the 90s to enjoy the neighborhood they fought so hard to keep from going to hell before you made it “nice”. I mean come on, these people were fighting the closing of fire departments, garbage plants where your state park is, incinerators and every other piece of crap the city or state could think to park here.

    Gentrification didn’t make the neighborhood safe for the old timers, the people who lived here through it all made the neighborhood safe for gentrification.

  • If the noise is really at that level, 12:26, then it’s easily measured and easily shown to be above what the noise code allows. Yet the city is going after them for food violations and other things. Which is it, a true noise issue or the neighbors just plain don’t like them there?

  • Joseph Lentol is an asshole. He hates anything that has to do with young people having fun…
    I have no doubt that he is behind this.
    Having said that though, it was pretty amateur of soundfix to try and get away with this without the appropriate permits.

  • blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

    Give it a break folks,

    1. Transplants are an unchanging aspect of NYC.

    2. They didn’t make anything safer, they just forced out folks who are suffering from social ills, who have gone to other neighborhoods to suffer some more.

    3. They truly add a lot to the neighborhood.

    4. They generally have a lot to learn about respecting the history of whatever neighborhood they decide to inhabit.

    5. Music is great, so is quiet.

    6. (guest 12.35 (1) you are so right.

  • I think it’s just the people who live on that block that either have nothing to do but complain or have some serious political clout. They’re already known for barraging Triple Crown across the street until not only did they close, but they had trouble finding anyone willing to buy it and deal with the neighbors. (http://www.brownstoner.com/brownstoner/archives/2007/10/cb1_to_burg_bar.php) Now they close down a solid little tucked away venue.

    to those neighbors: young people live in the neighborhood and more will move in before this is over. regardless of what you do, there will always be noise. double glaze your windows and sleep with some ear plugs.

  • I think it’s just the people who live on that block that either have nothing to do but complain or have some serious political clout. They’re already known for barraging Triple Crown across the street until not only did they close, but they had trouble finding anyone willing to buy it and deal with the neighbors. (http://www.brownstoner.com/brownstoner/archives/2007/10/cb1_to_burg_bar.php) Now they close down a solid little tucked away venue.

    to those neighbors: young people live in the neighborhood and more will move in before this is over. regardless of what you do, there will always be noise. double glaze your windows and sleep with some ear plugs.

  • I think it’s just the people who live on that block that either have nothing to do but complain or have some serious political clout. They’re already known for barraging Triple Crown across the street until not only did they close, but they had trouble finding anyone willing to buy it and deal with the neighbors. (http://www.brownstoner.com/brownstoner/archives/2007/10/cb1_to_burg_bar.php) Now they close down a solid little tucked away venue.

    to those neighbors: young people live in the neighborhood and more will move in before this is over. regardless of what you do, there will always be noise. double glaze your windows and sleep with some ear plugs.

  • TERESA POLONSKI? sounds to me like an old school polish local pre-dating the artists, the hipsters, and the huppies.

  • Jesus Christ, Soundfix is basically the last surviving, decent cultural institution on the Northside. If they close it I’m offering the owners my damn living room.

    Also, although I don’t hang out at SoundFix much, I’ve seen cops come in there more than three times in the last six months. The blocks around North 10th are some of the most old-timery residential blocks in Williamsburg, so it’s not so hard to guess who’s calling in to complain…

  • Considering there is usually a crowd standing outside SF listening to bands, this was inevitable. They should get the door situation figured out, its usually wide open with smokers going in and out constantly while bands are on.

  • 12:26 nailed it. Until you’ve lived next to, or above, a music venue, you have no idea how annoying it can be.

    I’m all for live music, but as someone who has 2 little kids who go to bed early and are easily awakened by loud noises, I’m also all for obtaining the proper permits and following the noise code.

  • Actually, the situation has nothing to do with the smokers standing outside. Please take a look at the article which outlines the cause of SF’s problems quite accurately. It is not the sound outside that rallies up complaints, but rather, it seems, from inside.

    That said, thank you soooo much to everyone who has shown support for Sound Fix.

    Please submit ideas for how to rally up the kind of community support that SF needs to survive to me via my myspace page. I intern at SF for nothing because it brings beautiful music to the people, up close and personal.

    I sympathize somewhat with those who have to deal with the “noise,” but do you really want to be responsible for killing a one-of-a-kind venue that has brought the best indie musicians to Williamsburg for FREE? I believe that Sound Fix is a symbol of the cultural, musical mecca that Williamsburg is. Let’s keep these wonderful artists here, and continue to give them a wonderful place where they can bring their art to the people. Let’s make sure that this musical treasure doesn’t get shut down.

  • Sound Fix isn’t a noisy place. In fact, it’s usually as quiet as a library. And it’s one of the very few places in the neighborhood where people can hang out and access free WiFi. The recorded music that’s played in the store is never any louder than what you’ll hear at, say, Starbucks. And yeah, the live acts are louder than that, but the once or twice weekly shows are almost always matinees. It’s not like this Polinski lady is living above a frat bar. She lives above a laid back, quiet cafe that has a history or programming amazing performers like Clem Snide (acoustic), and Beiruit, Regina Spektor. You can’t even compare it to Triple Crown. THAT place was noisy and I would have hated to live above or next to it and been subjected to the incessant pounding beat of the music played by their celebrity DJs.

  • Quit your crying, old timers. NYC is not some kind of Velvet Underground Warhol Factory any more. It’s starbucks, it’s Whole Foods, and it’s Sex in the City, and it’s a great place for bland, rich people to shop for Le Cruset crockpots.

    The good old days are long, long gone. The war is over, and you lost. Welcome to New Cleveland. The only thing more annoying than what NYC has become are the people who can’t let go of what it was. It’s over. Go to Burning Man and talk about how great it was five years ago. Go to Woodstock(tm) and flood the porta potties. Just go.

  • let’s try and maintain some focus here. we’re not talking about dirty stinky hippies at woodstock or the velvet underground and their milieu in the late 60s. we’re talking about a cafe/music venue that was active until a few months and and an uptight neighbor with political connections.

  • I’m assuming that the 10:33 guest is a neighbor in the area. How do you think driving a vital arts space– a destination that people come to from all over the city to pump money into your neighborhood will effect your property values? The reason why people want to live in our neighborhood (I’m just a block away on N 10), is to have these places right outside their doors. That’s why you can sell your crappy 500 sq ft tenement apartment for 4 or 500K. I have never known Sound Fix to be overly loud. I frequent the live performances their. Like Triple Crown, this whole thing smacks of a politically connected misanthrope with intentions of making Bedford ave more attractive to the 40+ crowd– intentions that if made reality will be self-sabotaging in the end. Hopefully you bought your co-op in the 80′s and you don’t care whether your investment appreciates 500 or 600 percent. But when you get your wish and Sound Fix is replaced by a Starbucks, you will be sorry.

  • I’m assuming that the 10:33 guest is a neighbor in the area. How do you think driving a vital arts space– a destination that people come to from all over the city to pump money into your neighborhood will effect your property values? The reason why people want to live in our neighborhood (I’m just a block away on N 10), is to have these places right outside their doors. That’s why you can sell your crappy 500 sq ft tenement apartment for 4 or 500K. I have never known Sound Fix to be overly loud. I frequent the live performances their. Like Triple Crown, this whole thing smacks of a politically connected misanthrope with intentions of making Bedford ave more attractive to the 40+ crowd– intentions that if made reality will be self-sabotaging in the end. Hopefully you bought your co-op in the 80′s and you don’t care whether your investment appreciates 500 or 600 percent. But when you get your wish and Sound Fix is replaced by a Starbucks, you will be sorry.

  • Sound Fix isn’t loud. Turkey’s Nest is loud. But it was there before I moved nearby so I wear ear plugs.

    Now if someone would just silence the ice cream trucks…

  • Looks like the gentrifiers are getting re-re gentrified. Eat shit you bastards!